NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Intent on strengthening its Firestone brand, Bridgestone Americas has struck a deal with Major League Baseball to make Firestone the sport's official tire and to be a sponsor of baseball's all-star game balloting for the next several years.
“This is a tremendous opportunity to elevate the Firestone brand to new heights of consumer awareness and visibility,” said John Baratta, president of consumer tire replacement sales for Bridgestone Americas. He said the “grassroots” popularity of baseball will provide the company with myriad promotional possibilities.
The deal “opens up a new world of possibilities to continue to strengthen our brand loyalty, bolster our marketing support for our family of retailers and reach out to millions of new consumers who are loyal to MLB and its prestigious roster of official sponsors,” he said.
The agreement calls for Firestone to become the exclusive sponsor of in-stadium all-star game balloting, which takes place during the first couple of months of the season at all 30 MLB ballparks and at 100 minor league parks as well. MLB distributes more than 20 million ballots for the voting, Bridgestone said.
“There will be lots of dealer tie-in possibilities, especially considering the number of ballparks involved,” Barrata said.
Neither Bridgestone Americas nor Major League Baseball Properties Inc. disclosed the value or the duration of the deal, which the tire maker calls the largest sports sponsorship outside of motorsports in the Firestone brand's history.
An MLBP spokesperson didn't dispute a published report that the deal is for five years and worth “multimillions” of dollars.
The deal is in addition to sponsorship partnerships the company has for the Bridgestone brand with the National Football League, National Hockey League, Professional Golfers Association and for the Firestone brand in IndyCar racing.
Bridgestone also will partner with MLB on various promotional opportunities, including the title sponsorship of an officially sanctioned All-Star Week hospitality event and presenting sponsorship of a premiere attraction at MLB All-Star FanFest, Bridgestone said. The 2010 All Star Game will be played July 13 in Anaheim, Calif.
The agreement also includes unspecified trademark rights and broadcast media elements.
Bridgestone said it will support the MLB partnership with an integrated marketing plan, including national advertising and consumer marketing programs and promotions.
Among other things, Bridgestone will use the MLB tie-in to help it promote the launches of several Firestone products this spring. Barrata declined to elaborate on which products but said the firm is preparing three television ads for Firestone products that will use a baseball theme.
He also pointed to data provided by MLB that show 60 percent of Americans consider themselves baseball fans, and this fan base is more diverse demographically than other sports, with higher female and Hispanic representation.
Bridgestone and MLBP negotiated the deal over several months, and in the process discovered a number of historical ties between baseball and Firestone, including photos of Babe Ruth and the New York Yankees playing a game at Firestone Tire stadium in Akron.